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Hotel Occupancy in the Dallas - Fort Worth Area At Record Highs;
Rita Evacuees Going to Oklahoma for Hotel Rooms

By Andrea, Ahles And Susan Schrock, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Sep. 22, 2005 - There is no room at the inn.

Texas Gulf Coast residents fleeing from Hurricane Rita will have a hard time finding hotel rooms in North Texas because almost all of the area's 82,000 hotel rooms are booked.

Hotel occupancy in the Metroplex is at record highs, partly because some hotels are still housing survivors of Hurricane Katrina and because two large conventions are in town this weekend.

Houston residents who called ahead for reservations or have already arrived may have snatched up the few remaining available rooms in the area, local industry officials said.

The Hotel Association of Greater Dallas has been working with its member hotels since Tuesday to log vacancies and found about 20,000 open rooms, said Executive Vice President Sandi Bailey. But by Wednesday morning, most of those rooms were booked and all of the discounted room rates posted by a few hotels on its Web site Tuesday evening were also gone, she said.

"We sent urgent notices to local hotels to book any additional rooms, but it appears there are very few rooms available today," Bailey said.

InTown Suites in south Arlington, which has 140 rooms, had only four rooms available for people fleeing Hurricane Rita, said Tristan Leyman, the assistant manager.

"These people are going to have an even more difficult time because of all the Katrina people here already," Leyman said. The American Red Cross has booked a majority of the rooms at the motel for weeks for Louisiana residents. "They are running impossible odds because there is nothing available for them like there would normally be."

In addition to Katrina evacuees, thousands of visitors will attend two large conventions in the Metroplex this weekend: the American Public Transportation Association convention in Dallas and the Southwest Veterinary Symposium in Fort Worth. The APTA convention expects 15,000 attendees, and the Fort Worth veterinary convention will have about 5,000.

The Renaissance Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth is full this weekend just with its regular hotel business and convention bookings, said Bob Jameson, the general manager. The reservation center for Marriott, which operates the Worthington, has gotten a significant number of calls from Gulf Coast residents looking for vacant rooms and is directing evacuees to hotels outside of Texas.

"We understand there are people traveling as far as Oklahoma to get a place to stay for the weekend," Jameson said.

Hotels in Tarrant County are already full, said Ronny Region, executive director for the Hotel Association of Tarrant County.

Region said he was able to secure 100 hotel rooms starting Friday for TXU, which expects to bring in maintenance crews to repair any damage to electrical lines in Fort Worth after the storm rolls through the Metroplex. But after booking those rooms, Region said most Tarrant County hotels e-mailed him to say that they had no vacancies.

The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau has posted the 800 numbers for various hotel corporations on its Web site because the mandatory evacuations in Texas cities like Galveston have already stretched Dallas' hotel capacity.

"We did have until this morning a listing of local hotels that had been submitted to us with availability and best rates, but it filled really quickly," said spokeswoman Phyllis Hammond. "Our Web site will be updated daily as we find out new information."

Jan Tatel, manager of the Super 8 Motel in south Arlington, said Houston area residents have been calling for rooms since Monday, but nothing is available.

"The phone has been ringing every five minutes. It's been crazy," Tatel said.

She said the motel's 48 rooms are booked through the next couple of weeks by Louisiana residents who fled Hurricane Katrina.

"We've got no rooms for other evacuees," Tatel said.

By Andrea Ahles and Susan Schrock


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Copyright (c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

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